Quotations about:
    America


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I do not think military readiness, in itself, will defeat Communism. I do not think we can consider the job finished with that. I think it buys us time to do the bigger job. We must demonstrate that it is possible to overcome poverty, misery and decay by democratic means, and that we must ourselves believe, and must show others, that our American tradition of the dignity and liberty of the individual is not a luxury for easy times but is the basic source of strength and security of a successful society.

Jane Jacobs
Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) American-Canadian journalist, author, urban theorist, activist
“No Virtue in Meek Conformity” (1952)
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Foreword to her response to a State Department Loyalty Security Board interrogatory (1952-03-25). Reprinted in Vital Little Plans (2016).
 
Added on 15-Jan-24 | Last updated 15-Jan-24
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This is the richest and most powerful country which ever occupied the globe. The might of past empires is little compared to ours. But I do not want to be the President who built empires, or sought grandeur, or extended dominion.
I want to be the President who educated young children to the wonders of their world.
I want to be the President who helped to feed the hungry and to prepare them to be taxpayers instead of tax-eaters.
I want to be the President who helped the poor to find their own way and who protected the right of every citizen to vote in every election.
I want to be the President who helped to end hatred among his fellow men and who promoted love among the people of all races and all regions and all parties.
I want to be the President who helped to end war among the brothers of this earth.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American politician, educator, US President (1963-69)
“The American Promise,” speech to a Joint Session of Congress [43:30] (1965-03-15)
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Added on 12-Jan-24 | Last updated 12-Jan-24
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I was brought up to believe that there is no virtue in conforming meekly to the dominant opinion of the moment. I was encouraged to believe that simple conformity results in stagnation for a society, and that American progress has been largely owing to the opportunity for experimentation, the leeway given initiative, and to a gusto and a freedom for chewing over odd ideas. I was taught that the American’s right to be a free individual, not at the mercy of the state, was hard-won and that its price was eternal vigilance, and that I too would have to be vigilant. I was made to feel that it would be a disgrace to me, as an individual, if I should not value or should give up rights that were dearly bought.

Jane Jacobs
Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) American-Canadian journalist, author, urban theorist, activist
“No Virtue in Meek Conformity” (1952)
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Foreword to her response to a State Department Loyalty Security Board interrogatory (1952-03-25). Reprinted in Vital Little Plans (2016).
 
Added on 8-Jan-24 | Last updated 8-Jan-24
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Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument. Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to ensure that right.
Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes.
Every device of which human ingenuity is capable has been used to deny this right. The Negro citizen may go to register only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour is late, or the official in charge is absent. And if he persists, and if he manages to present himself to the registrar, he may be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name or because he abbreviated a word on the application.
And if he manages to fill out an application he is given a test. The registrar is the sole judge of whether he passes this test. He may be asked to recite the entire Constitution, or explain the most complex provisions of State law. And even a college degree cannot be used to prove that he can read and write.
For the fact is that the only way to pass these barriers is to show a white skin.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American politician, educator, US President (1963-69)
“The American Promise,” speech to a Joint Session of Congress [11:51] (1965-03-15)
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Added on 22-Dec-23 | Last updated 22-Dec-23
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There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans — not as Democrats or Republicans — we are met here as Americans to solve that problem.
This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose. The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, North and South: “All men are created equal” — “government by consent of the governed” — “give me liberty or give me death.” Well, those are not just clever words, or those are not just empty theories. In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries, and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty, risking their lives.
Those words are a promise to every citizen that he shall share in the dignity of man. This dignity cannot be found in a man’s possessions; it cannot be found in his power, or in his position. It really rests on his right to be treated as a man equal in opportunity to all others. It says that he shall share in freedom, he shall choose his leaders, educate his children, and provide for his family according to his ability and his merits as a human being.
To apply any other test — to deny a man his hopes because of his color or race, his religion or the place of his birth — is not only to do injustice, it is to deny America and to dishonor the dead who gave their lives for American freedom.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American politician, educator, US President (1963-69)
“The American Promise,” speech to a Joint Session of Congress [07:41] (1965-03-15)
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Added on 15-Dec-23 | Last updated 22-Dec-23
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It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to exercise either of them.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Following the Equator, ch. 20, Epigraph (1897)
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Cited as from Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar. Sometimes misquoted "... never to practice either."
 
Added on 13-Dec-23 | Last updated 13-Dec-23
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In our time we have come to live with moments of great crisis. Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues; issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression. But rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge, not to our growth or abundance, our welfare or our security, but rather to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved Nation.
The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American politician, educator, US President (1963-69)
“The American Promise,” speech to a Joint Session of Congress [06:27] (1965-03-15)
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Added on 8-Dec-23 | Last updated 22-Dec-23
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The actual American childhood is less Norman Rockwell and Walt Disney than Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe.

Susan Cheever
Susan Cheever (b. 1943) American writer, memoirist
A Woman’s Life (1994)
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Added on 15-Nov-23 | Last updated 15-Nov-23
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I have heard people say we should be strong so that if there is another war we can win it, then show the world the right way to live afterward. This is old stuff, and it is poppycock. Our behavior hardly qualifies us as world leaders. Ours is one of the most conservative governments in the world today, and one of the most bumbling. We have more provincialism and bigotry and superstition and prejudice per square mile than almost any other nation. We like to think of ourselves as a young, progressive country, but, while we do have energy, we have become smug and self-satisfied.

Bill Mauldin
Bill Mauldin (1921-2003) American editorial cartoonist, writer
Back Home, ch. 14 (1947)
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Added on 16-Oct-23 | Last updated 16-Oct-23
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The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence can live only as long as they are enshrined in our hearts and minds. If they are not so enshrined, they would be no better than mummies in their glass cases, and they could in time become idols whose worship would be a grim mockery of the true faith. Only as these documents are reflected in the thoughts and acts of Americans can they remain symbols of a power that can move the world.

Harry S Truman (1884-1972) US President (1945-1953)
Speech, National Archives (1952-12-15)
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Added on 4-Oct-23 | Last updated 4-Oct-23
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I am beginning to feel a little more like an author now that I have had a book banned. The literary life, in this country, begins in jail.

E. B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
Letter to Stanley Hart White (1944-06)
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On reading that the US Army and Navy had refused to publish an "Armed Services Edition" of his Harper's magazine essay collection, One Man's Meat (1942), for "political implications." The decision was later rescinded.
 
Added on 6-Sep-23 | Last updated 6-Sep-23
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Maybe the purpose of this sorry and tragic error committed in my native Mississippi by two white adults on an afflicted Negro child is to prove to us whether or not we deserve to survive. Because if we in America have reached that point in our desperate culture when we must murder children, no matter for what reason or what color, we don’t deserve to survive, and probably won’t.

William Faulkner (1897-1962) American novelist
“The Art of Fiction,” Interview by Jean Stein, Paris Review #12 (Spring 1956)
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Regarding the Emmett Till murder.
 
Added on 14-Aug-23 | Last updated 14-Aug-23
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We are neither “warmongers” nor “appeasers,” neither “hard” nor “soft.” We are Americans, determined to defend the frontiers of freedom, by an honorable peace if peace is possible, but by arms if arms are used against us. And if we are to move forward in that spirit, we shall need all the calm and thoughtful citizens that this great University can produce, all the light they can shed, all the wisdom they can bring to bear. It is customary, both here and around the world, to regard life in the United States as easy. Our advantages are many. But more than any other people on earth, we bear burdens and accept risks unprecedented in their size and their duration, not for ourselves alone but for all who wish to be free.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Speech, Centennial Celebration, University of Washington, Seattle (1961-11-16)
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Added on 27-Jun-23 | Last updated 3-Jul-23
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The United States is not a beacon, not a light of freedom! She is a warning, rather than an example to the world!

Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880) American abolitionist, activist, journalist, suffragist
Speech, Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society 25th Anniversary Conference (1857)
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On slavery in the US, two months before the Dredd Scott decision.

Almost always elided as "The United States ... is a warning, rather than example to the world."
 
Added on 23-May-23 | Last updated 3-Jul-23
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In this country, people don’t vote for, they vote against.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist
Radio broadcast (1935-06-09)
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Added on 26-Apr-23 | Last updated 26-Apr-23
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There is a separation of colored people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
Speech, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania (3 May 1946)
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As reported in the the Baltimore Afro-American (11 May 1946). There was essentially no mainstream (white) press coverage of his visit to the Black college, or transcript of his ten minutes of remarks. No copy of his speech or notes has been found.

Sometimes paraphrased, "The separation of races is not a disease of ...."
 
Added on 22-Feb-23 | Last updated 22-Feb-23
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It always will seem funny to us United Staters that we are about the only ones that really know how to do everything right. I don’t know how a lot of these other Nations have existed as long as they have till we could get some of our people around and show ’em really how to be Pure and Good like us.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist
“Letter of a Self-Made Diplomat,” Saturday Evening Post (27 Feb 1932)
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Added on 22-Feb-23 | Last updated 22-Feb-23
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Dear America: You are waking up as Germany once did, to the awareness that 1/3 of your people would kill another 1/3, while 1/3 watches.

Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog (b. 1942) German film director, screenwriter, author, actor
(Spurious)

Though frequently showing up in social media attributed to Herzog, this was first published by the @wernertwertzog Twitter parody account (23 Aug 2017). The account is operated by William Pannapacker, American literature professor at Hope College, Holland, Michigan.

More information about this quotation:
 
Added on 8-Sep-22 | Last updated 8-Sep-22
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Never let yourself be persuaded that any one Great Man, any one leader, is necessary to the salvation of America. When America consists of one leader and 143,000,000 followers, it will no longer be America. Truly American leadership is not of any one man. It is of multitudes of men — and women. Eisenhower - Never let yourself be persuaded that any one Great Man it will no longer be America - wist.info quote

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
“An Open Letter to America’s Students,” Reader’s Digest (1948-10)
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Quoted in different locations with various numbers for the US population. The letter was written while Eisenhower was President of Columbia University.
 
Added on 6-Sep-22 | Last updated 4-Jul-23
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American society has always exercised a stronger pressure on individual behavior than Western European societies; but in time of war this pressure is notched a few degrees, and starts to become quite alarming.

Tzvetan Todorov
Tzvetan Todorov (1939-2017) Bulgarian-French historian, philosopher, literary critic, sociologist
The New World Disorder: Reflections of a European, ch. 3 (2005)
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Added on 15-Jun-22 | Last updated 15-Jun-22
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We should not be surprised that the Founding Fathers didn’t foresee everything, when we see that the current Fathers hardly ever foresee anything.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“Conversations with Historians,” interview by John A. Garraty, American Heritage (1970-02)
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Excerpted from Interpreting American History: Conversations with Historians, Part 1, ch. 4 (1970).
 
Added on 20-Apr-22 | Last updated 4-Jul-23
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The crucial disadvantage of aggression, competitiveness, and skepticism as national characteristics is that these qualities cannot be turned off at five o’clock.

Margaret Halsey
Margaret Halsey (1910-1997) American writer
The Folks at Home, “The Five O’Clock Shadow over the United States” (1952)
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Added on 31-Mar-22 | Last updated 31-Mar-22
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Loyalty … is a realization that America was born of revolt, flourished in dissent, became great through experimentation.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“Who Is Loyal to America?” Harper’s Magazine #1168 (1947-09)
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Reprinted in Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent (1954)
 
Added on 2-Mar-22 | Last updated 4-Jul-23
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We should not forget that our tradition is one of protest and revolt, and it is stultifying to celebrate the rebels of the past — Jefferson and Paine, Emerson and Thoreau — while we silence the rebels of the present.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“Who Is Loyal to America?” Harper’s Magazine #1168 (Sep 1947)
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Reprinted in Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent (1954).
 
Added on 16-Feb-22 | Last updated 16-Feb-22
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Where is it written that if you don’t like religion you are somehow disqualified from being a legitimate American? What was Mark Twain, a Russian?

Hendrik Hertzberg (b. 1943) American journalist, editor, speech writer, political commentator
“Antidisestablishmentarianism,” The New Republic (1985-09-16)
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Reprinted in Politics: Observations and Arguments, 1966-2004 (2005). Responding to a speech from William Bennett, Secretary of Education, about liberals having an "aversion to religion," thus requiring government promotion of "Judeo-Christian tradition."
 
Added on 21-Jan-22 | Last updated 4-Jul-23
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Independence was an act of revolution; republicanism was something new under the sun; the federal system was a vast experimental laboratory. Physically Americans were pioneers; in the realm of social and economic institutions, too, their tradition has been one of pioneering. From the beginning, intellectual and spiritual diversity have been as characteristic of America as racial and linguistic. The most distinctively American philosophies have been transcendentalism — which is the philosophy of the Higher Law — and pragmatism — which is the philosophy of experimentation and pluralism. These two principles are the very core of Americanism: the principle of the Higher Law, or of obedience to the dictates of conscience rather than of statutes, and the principle of pragmatism, or the rejection of a single good and of the notion of a finished universe. From the beginning Americans have known that there were new worlds to conquer, new truths to be discovered. Every effort to confine Americanism to a single pattern, to constrain it to a single formula, is disloyalty to everything that is valid in Americanism.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“Who Is Loyal to America?” Harper’s Magazine #1168 (Sep 1947)
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Reprinted in Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent (1954).
 
Added on 12-Jan-22 | Last updated 3-Jul-23
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Who are those who are really disloyal? Those who inflame racial hatreds, who sow religious and class dissensions. Those who subvert the Constitution by violating the freedom of the ballot box. Those who make a mockery of majority rule by the use of the filibuster. Those who impair democracy by denying equal educational facilities. Those who frustrate justice by lynch law or by making a farce of jury trials. Those who deny freedom of speech and of the press and of assembly. Those who press for special favors against the interest of the commonwealth. Those who regard public office as a source of private gain. Those who would exalt the military over the civil. Those who for selfish and private purposes stir up national antagonisms and expose the world to the ruin of war.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“Who Is Loyal to America?” Harper’s Magazine #1168 (Sep 1947)
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Reprinted in Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent (1954)
 
Added on 5-Jan-22 | Last updated 22-Jun-22
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Who among American heroes could meet their tests, who would be cleared by their committees? Not Washington, who was a rebel. Not Jefferson, who wrote that all men are created equal and whose motto was “rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Not Garrison, who publicly burned the Constitution; or Wendell Phillips, who spoke for the underprivileged everywhere and counted himself a philosophical anarchist; not Seward of the Higher Law or Sumner of racial equality. Not Lincoln, who admonished us to have malice toward none, charity for all; or Wilson, who warned that our flag was “a flag of liberty of opinion as well as of political liberty”; or Justice Holmes, who said that our Constitution is an experiment and that while that experiment is being made “we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death.”

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“Who Is Loyal to America?” Harper’s Magazine #1168 (Sep 1947)
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Reprinted in Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent (1954)
 
Added on 29-Dec-21 | Last updated 22-Jun-22
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What is the new loyalty? It is, above all, conformity. It is the uncritical and unquestioning acceptance of America as it is — the political institutions, the social relationships, the economic practices. It rejects inquiry into the race question or socialized medicine, or public housing, or into the wisdom or validity of our foreign policy. It regards as particularly heinous any challenge to what is called “the system of private enterprise,” identifying that system with Americanism. It abandons evolution, repudiates the once popular concept of progress, and regards America as a finished product, perfect and complete.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“Who Is Loyal to America?” Harper’s Magazine #1168 (Sep 1947)
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Reprinted in Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent (1954)
 
Added on 22-Dec-21 | Last updated 3-Jul-23
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Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, ch. 18 (2017)
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Added on 11-Aug-21 | Last updated 11-Aug-21
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I see now that English class consciousness has an important silver lining. At least there we know that class is a real fact of social life. Posh Brits are more likely to see that their position is at least in part the result of good fortune. For Americans to solve the problem of their deepening class divisions, we will have to start by admitting their existence and our complicity in maintaining them. We need to raise our consciousness about class. And yes, I am looking at you.

Richard V. Reeves (b. 1969) British historian, journalist, political theorist
“Stop Pretending You’re Not Rich,” New York Times (10 Jun 2017)
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Added on 24-Jun-21 | Last updated 24-Jun-21
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The problem isn’t that our national character is too invested in civility. It’s that a certain segment of our population is desperate to be freed from it.

Lili Loofbourow (contemp.) American essayist, critic, author
“This Is America,” Slate (19 Aug 2018)
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Added on 22-Jun-21 | Last updated 22-Jun-21
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I’m a pacifist about certain things. I’m a pacifist in the way I define national interest. I use this example frequently: If the Mexicans decided to cross the Texas border with firearms, I would be down there in a moment with a rifle and a whistle to direct the troops to repel them. If the United States is attacked, I will defend it. My problem is the United States’ defending the interests of the Union Oil Company or the United Fruit Company. Those are not American interests. They’re private-money interests, and that bothers me a great deal.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
“The Initial Shock,” Interview by Sheldon Hackney, Humanities (Nov/Dec 1996)
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Added on 10-Jun-21 | Last updated 10-Jun-21
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Imagine my horror at discovering that the United States is more calcified by class than Britain, especially toward the top. The big difference is that most of the people on the highest rung in America are in denial about their privilege. The American myth of meritocracy allows them to attribute their position to their brilliance and diligence, rather than to luck or a rigged system. At least posh people in England have the decency to feel guilty.

Richard V. Reeves (b. 1969) British historian, journalist, political theorist
“Stop Pretending You’re Not Rich,” New York Times (10 Jun 2017)
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Added on 27-May-21 | Last updated 27-May-21
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Americans today often speak of racial prejudice as a thing that simply exists — like air — with no nod to the actual work it takes to create and maintain systems based upon prejudice.

Annette Gordon-Reed (b. 1958) American historian, law professor, author
“The Captive Aliens Who Remain Our Shame,” New York Review of Books (19 Jan 2017)
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Added on 24-May-21 | Last updated 24-May-21
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Envy is the gasoline on which American capitalism runs.

John Lahr (b. 1941) British-based American theater critic, author
“Lives in Limbo,” The New Yorker (26 Mar 2012)
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Added on 19-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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Except for the field organizers of strikes, who were pretty tough monkeys and devoted, most of the so-called Communists I met were middle-class, middle-aged people playing a game of dreams. I remember a woman in easy circumstances saying to another even more affluent: “After the revolution even we will have more, won’t we, dear?” Then there was another lover of proletarians who used to raise hell with Sunday picnickers on her property.

I guess the trouble was that we didn’t have any self-admitted proletarians. Everyone was a temporarily embarrassed capitalist. Maybe the Communists so closely questioned by the investigation committees were a danger to America, but the ones I knew — at least they claimed to be Communists — couldn’t have disrupted a Sunday-school picnic. Besides they were too busy fighting among themselves.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) American writer
“A Primer on the ’30s,” Esquire (1 Jun 1960)
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Collected in American and Americans (1966).

A portion of this was paraphrased in Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress (2004): "John Steinbeck once said that socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." That paraphrase has, in turn, been frequently cited as a direct quotation of Steinbeck.
 
Added on 14-Apr-21 | Last updated 20-Apr-21
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But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Herbert Spencer Lecture, Oxford (Nov 1963)
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Reprinted in Harpers (Nov 1964).
 
Added on 9-Dec-20 | Last updated 9-Dec-20
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Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (b. 1947) American athlete [b. Lew Alcindor]
“Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge,” op-ed, Los Angeles Times (30 May 2020)
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Added on 8-Dec-20 | Last updated 8-Dec-20
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It comes as a great shock around the age of 5, or 6, or 7, to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance, along with everybody else, has not pledged allegiance to you.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) American novelist, playwright, activist
“The American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro,” opening comments, Cambridge Union, Cambridge, England (1965-02-17)
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Debate with William F. Buckley, Jr.
 
Added on 27-Oct-20 | Last updated 4-Jul-23
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At the root of the American Negro problem is the necessity of the American White man to find a way of living with the Negro in order to be able to live with himself.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) American novelist, playwright, activist
“Stranger in a Village,” Harper’s Magazine (Oct 1953)
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Reprinted in Notes of a Native Son (1955).
 
Added on 12-Oct-20 | Last updated 12-Oct-20
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Clarity and perseverance are difficult in American society because the basis of capitalism is greed and dissatisfaction.

Natalie Goldberg (b. 1948) American author, teacher, speaker
Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life, ch. 42 (1990)
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Added on 11-Sep-20 | Last updated 11-Sep-20
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The American People will take Socialism, but they won’t take the label. I certainly proved it in the case of EPIC. Running on the Socialist ticket I got 60,000 votes, and running on the slogan to “End Poverty in California” I got 879,000. I think we simply have to recognize the fact that our enemies have succeeded in spreading the Big Lie. There is no use attacking it by a front attack, it is much better to out-flank them.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
Letter to Norman Thomas (25 Sep 1951)
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Added on 30-Jul-20 | Last updated 30-Jul-20
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What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.

Robert Francis Kennedy (1925-1968) American politician
Statement on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Indianapolis (1968-04-04)
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Added on 28-Jul-20 | Last updated 4-Jul-23
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I told him that, thank God, under our constitution there was no connection between Church and State, and that in my action as President of the U.S. I recognized no distinction of creeds in my appointments to office.

James K. Polk (1795-1849) American lawyer, politician, US President (1845-1849)
Diary (1846-10-14 )
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Added on 2-Jul-20 | Last updated 4-Jul-23
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It is a measure of the Negro’s circumstance that, in America, the smallest things usually take him so very long, and that, by the time he wins them, they are no longer little things: they are miracles.

Murray Kempton (1917-1997) American journalist.
Part of Our Time: Some Ruins & Monuments of the Thirties, ch. 8 (1955)
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On the formation of the Pullman Porters union.
 
Added on 26-Jun-20 | Last updated 26-Jun-20
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American capitalism is predatory, and American politics are corrupt: The same thing is true in England and the same in France; but in all these three countries the dominating fact is that whenever the people get ready to change the government, they can change it.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
Letter to John Reed (22 Oct 1918)
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Added on 4-Jun-20 | Last updated 4-Jun-20
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America is rather like life. You can usually find in it what you look for.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“Impressions of America,” The Listener (4 Sep 1947)
 
Added on 20-May-20 | Last updated 20-May-20
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The art of holding onto power is the American system’s special grace. The trick is to make reform seem so tantalizingly close as to dull the edge of militancy and force the purest revolutionaries into the peripheries of political action.

Andrew Kopkind (1935-1994) American journalist
“Are We in the Middle of a Revolution?” New York Times Magazine (10 Nov 1968)
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Added on 13-May-20 | Last updated 13-May-20
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That seems to point up a significant difference between Europeans and Americans:

A European says: I can’t understand this, what’s wrong with me?
An American says: I can’t understand this, what’s wrong with him?

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Post, alt.fan.pratchett (1994-05-08)
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Added on 3-Apr-20 | Last updated 4-Jul-23
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To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) American novelist, playwright, activist
In “The Negro After Watts,” Time (27 Aug 1965)
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Article placed in the Congressional Record by Robert Byrd (24 Aug 1965).
 
Added on 10-Jan-20 | Last updated 14-Jan-20
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I believe there’s an intrinsic irreverence in the American psyche, and when something comes along that offers even an echo of that irreverence, people respond to it.

Martin Mull (b. 1943) American actor, comedian
“20 Questions with Martin Mull,” Playboy (Apr 1984)
 
Added on 4-Sep-19 | Last updated 4-Sep-19
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It is a trite yet urgently true observation that if America is to remain a first-class nation, it cannot have second-class citizens.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
“The Negro and the American Dream,” speech, North Carolina NAACP, Charlotte (1960-09-25)
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King used this line in several of his speeches at the time.
 
Added on 26-Jul-19 | Last updated 4-Jul-23
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What Mr. Howells said of the American theater is true of the whole American attitude toward life. “A tragedy with a happy ending” is exactly what the child wants before he goes to sleep: the reassurance that “all’s well with the world” as he lies in his cozy nursery. It is a good thing that the child should receive this reassurance; but as long as he needs it he remains a child, and the world he lives in is a nursery-world. Things are not always and everywhere well with the world, and each man has to find it out as he grows up. It is the finding out that makes him grow, and until he has faced the fact and digested the lesson he is not grown up — he is still in the nursery.

Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton (1862-1937) American novelist
French Ways and Their Meaning, ch. 4 “Intellectual Honesty” (1919)
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Commenting on William Dean Howells' comment to her on American taste in theater and drama: "What the American public wants is a tragedy with a happy ending."
 
Added on 10-Apr-19 | Last updated 10-Apr-19
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I’d be the first to say that some historical victories have been won by violence; the U.S. Revolution is certainly one of the foremost. But the Negro revolution is seeking integration, not independence. Those fighting for independence have the purpose to drive out the oppressors. But here in America, we’ve got to live together. We’ve got to find a way to reconcile ourselves to living in community, one group with the other. The struggle of the Negro in America, to be successful, must be waged with resolute efforts, but efforts that are kept strictly within the framework of our democratic society. This means reaching, educating and moving large enough groups of people of both races to stir the conscience of the nation.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
Playboy interview (Jan 1965)
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Added on 24-Mar-19 | Last updated 24-Mar-19
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